What’s the Matter With San Fran?
It was so sad to read “ “The Extinction Crisis Comes Home”” by Jimmy Tobias [May 4/11]. I lived in San Francisco from 1967 to 1987. It was the most delightful city in the world. What made it so was the incredible diversity of ideas, ethnicities, lifestyles, income levels, and the arts. The Board of Supervisors was young, hip, and progressive. It was horrific to read that Mayor London Breed has actively opposed healing the bay. How does this happen to a city that has championed recycling, gender equality, LGBT rights, the environment, progressive politics, and many other groundbreaking ideas? I think it has to do with money, who has it now, and how to keep it.
I really enjoyed reading Elias Rodriques’s “The Good of All” [May 4/11], on Lorraine Hansberry’s radical imagination. It prompted some very nostalgic memories of when my eighth-grade English teacher passionately taught us A Raisin in the Sun.
This piece and those memories made me realize the unspoken rules of teaching about black leaders from the period. We received a sanitized image of these revolutionaries. The unfiltered message of these fighters should be known, no matter how uncomfortable it makes anyone feel.
The Source of Our Disagreements
Noam Chomsky’s letter in the May 4/11 issue obfuscates the source of our disagreements. He discusses Israeli obstructionism, which, though real, has nothing to do with our dispute. The facts are simple:
For decades, he has peddled the bizarre theory that, beginning in 1976 (and continuing thereafter), the Arab world and the Palestine Liberation Organization suddenly accepted Israel’s existence and sought a peaceful, two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has specifically included Iraq (then ruled by Saddam Hussein), Syria (Hafez al-Assad), and Libya (Moammar El-Gadhafi) in this noble axis of peace. More recently, Chomsky has added Iran and Hamas. Thus the sole obstacle to peace, he has repeatedly argued, is Israel—including its peace camp.
To support his claim, Chomsky cites an obscure, never-passed United Nations resolution from 1976. But his description of the resolution is incorrect: In calling for the refugees’ return, it negated two states. More important, Chomsky has apparently never read the debate surrounding the resolution—which is key to discerning the actual political positions that underlie the rhetorical officialese of UN texts. In this debate, the Arab states and the PLO reject the UN’s previous land-for-peace resolutions (the only possible basis for two states), mock the concept of territorial integrity and recognized borders, repeatedly and furiously denounce the “racist” “Zionist entity,” and reaffirm their commitment to armed struggle. To interpret this as a call for peace is astonishing.
As proof of his claims, Chomsky cites his own books. I would suggest that interested readers go instead to the UN documents, available on the Web: the draft resolution and, especially, the resulting debate.
There are many good books on the labyrinthine relationships between the PLO, the Arab states, and Israel; many are justifiably critical of Israel. Readers might consult Alain Gresh’s The PLO: The Struggle Within, Matti Steinberg’s In Search of Modern Palestinian Nationhood, and Yezid Sayigh’s authoritative, 900-page Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949–1993. None of these works support or even mention Chomsky or his theories.
This correspondence began with Susie Linfield’s charge [Letters, April 6] that I was lying about the 1976 Security Council resolution that called for a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, supported by Egypt-Syria-Jordan and tacitly by the PLO, rejected by Israel on the grounds, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated, that Israel must “vehemently oppose any tendency to establish a third state in the area between it and Jordan.”
In response, I referred to my discussions of these topics, all accurate.
Responding, Linfield evades the refutation of her charges, complaining that I cited my own books—those that she claimed had lied—and dismissing the resolution because it was “never passed”—that is, was vetoed by the US. She now adds her primary claim: that “in calling for the refugees’ return, it negated two states.” In fact, Israel “vehemently” rejected the resolution precisely because it affirmed two states.
In brief, Linfield’s proof that I was lying is that I review the historical and documentary record accurately, while she holds that Israel didn’t know why it must reject the resolution—for reasons that were always on the margins, as the record then and since demonstrates, because it was understood on all sides how the issue could be finessed.
Linfield flings around other charges, which, on examination, suffer the same fate as her prime example.
There is a serious issue in the background. Israel’s fateful decision to prefer expansion to security—one of the many examples I reviewed—has caused enormous harm to Palestinians and Lebanese and also to its own standing in the world, which has radically declined—matters that should trouble those who care about the society and its people. All deserve better than performances like this.
oro valley, ariz.
The caption for an illustration in “Faces of the Crisis” by Molly Crabapple [May 18/25] identified three New Jersey phlebotomists in incorrect order. Their names, from left to right, are Kegga, Marissa, and Courtney.